Following a trilogy of flawless releases, a tribute to the Zimbabwean songstress Chiwoniso, a reissue of some South African library music from the early 80’s, and a collab between the Mbira master Jacob Mafuleni & the French electro-funk producer Gary Gritness, Nyami Nyami drop another “off the beaten track” bomb with the debut LP of South African band BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness).
A stone’s throw from the church where Desmond Tutu organised the escape of the most wanted anti-Apartheid activists of Soweto, the BCUC band rehearses in a shipping container-turned-community restaurant, where their indomitable outspokenness echoes in a whole new way. Make no mistake, this buzzing township has lost none of the creative, rebellious energy it had when the “Rainbow Nation”, with its now less-than-vibrant colours, emerged twenty years ago. BCUC found its magic formula in 2013, when they folded a frenzied electric bass into the simple drum-and-vocals mix. And that’s the alchemy of “Africangungungu”, the name they’ve given to their “afropsychedelic” music. Their “incantations” in Zulu, Sotho and English and their funky modulations extend over twenty minutes in a whirlwind of sound reminiscent of Fela’s Afrobeat. Nguni rhythms mix with Tsonga rhythms, the whistles of Bhaca and Shona miners meet the traditional Imbomu horn, while ancestral war songs and Ngoma busuku (night song) choruses mingle with the soul music of singer Kgomotso and the raging rap of Jovi and Luja. “Yinde”, which opens “Our Truth”, means “the road”: a symbol of the distance left to cover towards a fairer South African society. Similarly, “Asazani” (“we don’t know one other”) pleads for a reconciling of all the components of the “Rainbow Nation”. BCUC’s willingness to look these social and identity questions in the face has already led to the banning of one song from their only self-produced EP, which points the finger at a national idol. But neither this event, nor the criticism to which they are exposed by their refusal to belong to a specific movement, can change their minds. “Music for the people by the people with the people” – a people they refuse to box into one community, to circumscribe to one skin colour.
STAFF COMMENTSPatrick says: From the label that brought you the batshit Afro-cosmica of Zimba, comes a red hot modern Afro-beat banger served in three distinct slices. In time honoured fashion each side clocks in at the 20 minute mark, though there are more than enough twists in the tale to keep you on the edge of your dancing feet.